New SVR Market Study Predicts Solid Growth For STOVs

In a new market study on the small task-oriented vehicle (STOV) market in the US and Canada, Small Vehicle Resource (SVR), LLC predicts growth over the 2017-2021 period. The market research reveals four trends coming together that will result in market gains of mid to high single digits in the forecast period and an industry value in the range of $15.8 billion at retail including parts and accessories.

  • Growing appreciation in a highly diverse market for the effectiveness of STOVs specifically designed to meet individual segment needs;
  • Increasing competition that will drive new product development as manufacturers seek to strengthen current market strongholds and stake out additional market segments with new and/or expanded product lines;
  • Continuing focus on accessories and attachments to enhance the versatility and value of STOVs, boost revenues and supplant other vehicle types such as pick-ups and tractors for work and full-size vehicles for transportation;
  • Golf manufacturers emphasizing non-fleet markets over the continuing slow/negative growth golf car fleet market.

Steve Metzger, SVR Managing Director, states that, “While the fleet market remains in a downsizing mode, it is a marginal decline. It will remain a significant component of the golf car-type vehicle market. On the other hand, SVR forecasts continued sizable gains in the non-fleet market, including light utility and transporter vehicles and personal transportation vehicles.” Metzger also notes, “SVR anticipates that important new opportunities lie ahead, including self-driving technology applications, as well as potential for a much broader market on a global basis.”

Marc Cesare, SVR Managing Director adds, “The off-road utility vehicle market continues to be a competitive vortex for golf car manufacturers seeking new markets, the powersports industry, and traditional manufacturers of work related utility vehicles. While market growth will be slower than the recent high growth years, it remains solid,” Cesare notes, “ and competition will drive product innovation in both base vehicles as well as options and attachments that improve vehicle performance and versatility.

Approximately a third of the market value is from electric powered STOVs, primarily in the form of golf cars or golf car derived utility vehicles and personal transportation vehicles (PTVs). PTVs are golf cars modified for gated community or low speed public road use and include low speed vehicles (LSVs). Key trends and projections for the market include:

  • In total, demand for electric powered STOVs will increase to over 300,000 vehicles in 2021.
  • The demand for non-fleet golf car type vehicles will more than offset the slight decline in the fleet golf car market, moving from under 50% of the total demand to over 50%.
  • Light utility vehicles produced by golf car and other manufacturers are expected to grow approximately 10% annually to 2021.
  • PTVs will continue to grow low single digits during the trend period and electric powered PTVs will slowly increase to represent nearly 75% of the market by 2021. LSVs will account for about one-fifth of the PTVmarket.

Metzger, states that, “The potential for even greater electric powered STOV growth is there. In the PTV market the combination of market forces and emerging technologies could greatly increase the applicability of PTVs. Increasing urbanization is expected to create congestion and pollution issues, and the search for new transportation solutions. The advent of self-driving vehicle technology along with improved battery technology creates the potential for mobility platforms that can in part be based on small PTVs.” He further notes, “Gated communities with their more controlled environments could prove to be excellent testing grounds and the concepts could then migrate to urban environments that are well suited to low speed vehicle operations.”

The new study, the eighth in the series of studies produced by SVR since 2000, covers utility, off-road, and personal transportation vehicles, and fleet golf cars.

The study is entitled, 2017 Market Report on the Small, Task-Oriented Vehicle Industry: Transition and Growth –Trends from 2012; Forecasts to 2021. 

For additional, detailed information on study content a brochure is available with a table of contents ( Small Task-Oriented Vehicle Study – Analysis & Forecast (PDF)) or contact:

Steve Metzger,  smetzger@smallvehicleresource.com

(914) 293-7577

UPS to Use Golf Cars for Residential Deliveries in Kentucky

UPS golf cara

A UPS delivery golf car in use in another state.

The United Parcel Service is planning on using golf cars to deliver packages in residential areas in Kentucky. The state government recently passed a law that will allow the use of golf cars or low speed vehicles for commercial delivery in residential areas.

The plan is to use the vehicles during the peak November to January delivery season, with Louisville as a potential location. The golf car or LSV would be stored in the neighborhood in a portable storage unit, and packages would be delivered to the unit as well. A driver would then deliver packages to the local neighborhood. The vehicles would be modified to carry packages and bear a UPS logo.

Teamsters Local 89 is against the plan because the drivers would be paid less than the traditional truck drivers. UPS confirmed that seasonal workers, who are paid less, will be used. According to the company, they already use golf cars for deliveries in Georgia, South Carolina and Florida. Learn more:  Bizjournals.com ;  Vehicle in use (youtube)

Comment:  A good example of how LSVs, golf cars and UTVs can be used in niche applications to improve efficiency and lower costs. Why use a full-size delivery truck when a much smaller and possibly electric powered vehicle can be used? I suspect this vehicle application is most efficient during the peak season when package volume is high in certain neighborhoods.

Marc Cesare, Smallehicleresource.com

Self-Driving Vehicles = Growth For STOVs?

Google Prototype self-driving low-speed vehicle.

My colleague recently penned an article exploring the nexus of self-driving cars and golf car-type vehicles. Some of the key takeaways:

  • Hardware costs are dropping precipitously and may soon be within striking distance of being affordable for golf car type vehicles.
  • Golf car manufacturers are already exploring the technology and in some cases conducting testing.
  • Other companies are using GEM vehicles as self-driving test vehicles.
  • Gated communities with low speed vehicles provide a lower complexity environment that is more conducive to self-driving solutions.
  • Self-driving technology could expand potential growth avenues in non-golf car markets, an area of focus for golf car manufacturers

The article points to gated communities and urban fleets as potential market segments for deployment of self-driving technology. There are also other potential market impacts not addressed in the article that this technology can have.

For one, self-driving technology could provide an impetus for LSVs sales in the personal transportation sector. Purpose made LSVs have not quite reached their potential in this segment due to the relative cost of LSVs compared to the available market alternatives such as used golf cars, golf cars modified to be LSV compliant, customized golf cars and new golf cars. Put simply, not enough customers have found the additional price of LSVs to be worth the additional benefits. LSVs for personal transportation have done best where local regulations have favored them such as where golf cars or modified golf cars are not allowed on public roads but LSVs are, or where night time driving or other driving restrictions require LSV compliant technology.

Self-driving technology could be a differentiator for personal transportation LSVs. Since they are higher priced, LSVs are likely to feature self-driving technology before traditional golf cars. While it is possible existing golf cars could be retrofitted with self-driving technology, it may prove cost prohibitive and, more importantly, likely to encounter regulatory issues. It’s one thing to slap on some lights and an auto-style windshield, it’s quite another to install the software and hardware components necessary to create a self-driving vehicle, not to mention supporting the system with updates moving forward.

Regulatory issues brings to mind another consideration in regard to self-driving technology, medium speed vehicles (MSVs). While a few states in the US allow medium speed vehicles, at the Federal level NHTSA has never created a MSV classification and, in fact, has strongly opposed the idea on safety grounds. A MSV would require prohibitively expensive safety features akin to a highway capable vehicle.

Can self-driving change this dynamic? It is a possibility worth considering. In January, 2017 NHTSA completed their investigation (PDF file) of Tesla’s Autopilot and Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) system, which was initiated following a fatal crash of a Tesla with a tractor trailer in Florida. Their conclusion was that, “A safety-related defect trend has not been identified at this time and further examination of this issue does not appear to be warranted.” However, for the purposes of this discussion, the most important finding of the report was related to Tesla vehicles before and after they had Tesla’s Autopilot Technology Package (ATP) installed at purchase or through updates. “The data show that the Tesla vehicles crash rate dropped by almost 40 percent after Autosteer installation.”

This is an astonishing drop, and even more so considering it does not take into account whether Autopilot was in use. Therefore, this improvement is likely a conservative finding. The question is straightforward. Can MSVs use self-driving technology to make them safe enough to pass NHTSA’s regulatory rigor? Why rely on a package of older and likely more expensive safety technology to improve MSV safety when a potentially cheaper and possibly more effective solution is on the horizon. It may soon be time to revisit the possibility of creating an MSV classification, which could open up a range of potential growth markets.

Marc Cesare, Smallvehicleresource.com

How Will Textron’s Arctic Cat Acquisition Impact The STOV Market

Textron E-Z-GO Logo

Textron’s recent acquisition of Arctic Cat raises some interesting questions about the acquisition itself and how other companies in the market may react. In particular, what does the acquisition mean for Club Car.

One question is whether or not Textron will continue investing in the Bad Boy Off-Road brand. Except for the electric powered Bad Boy Off-Road UTVs the brand’s product offerings are redundant given the more popular Arctic Cat product lineup. One can argue that the dealer networks are sufficiently different that the brands can effectively reach different customer bases and not cannibalize each other’s sales.  A quick perusal of the Bad Boy dealer network indicates that most of their dealer s are golf car related with some power sports dealers. Moving forward, Bad Boy how much resources are put into product development, and what type of vehicles they develop should indicate the direction the brand will take in the context of Arctic Cat acquisition.

Another issue is the potential clash of corporate cultures between Textron Specialized Vehicles and Arctic Cat. Textron is a large conglomerate with over $13 billion in sales annually and a particular corporate culture while Arctic Cat is a much smaller company coming out of a powersports background. How well these companies will mesh will be interesting to see. Keeping Arctic Cat as a stand alone operating unit can mitigate any cultural problems to a certain degree. However, any future financial difficulties at Arctic Cat could generate more intrusion from Textron management regarding Arctic Cat operations.

Club Car is targeting the commercial market with the Carryall 700 and other vehicles.

A more intriguing question is how the acquisition of Arctic Cat might impact Club Car, which is now the only large stand alone fleet golf car manufacturer. While Yamaha Golf Cars are separate from their UTV and ATVs business, they are both part of their Power Products division. Similarly Textron has developed their Textron Specialty Vehicles division that combines a range of small, task-oriented vehicles from airport tugs, to fleet golf cars to off-road ATVs and UTVs.

Ingersoll-Rand and Club Car has taken a decidedly different approach. Rather than collecting other categories of vehicles, they have opted to focus on building out the sales of golf cars for personal/golf use and commercial oriented utility vehicles that are based off of their golf car platform. Management confirmed this approach when asked about the Arctic Cat acquisition during their recent fourth quarter earnings call.  According to recent financial results Club Car has been successful with positive growth in the commercial/utility segment while the fleet side continues to lag. However, the business is relatively small compared to the overall size of the company which had $13.5 billion in sales in 2016, and Club Car is part of their smaller Industrial segment.

This raises the possibility that Club Car may be an inviting candidate for divestiture. But who might be interested in buying Club Car? One possibility is Honda Motor. They already have a range of motorcycles, ATVs, UTVs and scooters. An acquisition of Club Car could further diversify their vehicle portfolio. In addition, golf is a popular sport in Japan so there could be some degree of personal affinity among the management towards owning a leading golf car company. Club Car would offer a premium brand and a different distribution channel that might be useful for moving other Honda products. It would also add some electric vehicle expertise to Honda as well as additional global manufacturing capabilities.

Another possibility is Polaris, which has been acquiring small vehicle brands over the past several years. Polaris tends to acquire leading brands in a particular segment and many consider Club Car to be the leading golf car brand. Besides the premium brand, Club Car would bring some other positives to the table:

  • Global brand and distribution
  • China based manufacturing facilities as well as Southeast US facilities and supplier network not far from Polaris’ new Huntsville, AL facility
  • Large volume of electric vehicle sales that can be used spread costs of new battery and electric powertrain development.
  • Entry into the golf car segment
  • Largely separate distribution channel from existing products but similar enough to cross-sell some other Polaris brands
  • Good presence in commercial small vehicle market that Polaris has been targeting

The one drawback is that, from previous presentations, Polaris management considers the golf car segment a low growth segment. In large part this is due to the stagnant fleet golf car market which is the major portion of the golf car segment. However, E-Z-GO’s recent introduction of lithium battery powered fleet golf cars represents a potentially significant shift in the market. If lithium battery golf cars can disrupt the fleet market, this might create a more appealing market to Polaris. Providing an opportunity to leverage their expertise in electric vehicles, increase electric vehicle unit volume to lower costs and find a growth avenue in an otherwise stagnant fleet market. Despite recent headwinds from recall issues, Polaris still has the financial resources for such an acquisition. It will be interesting to see if they move in this direction.

Marc Cesare, Smallvehicleresource.com

Star EV Launches Sirius Luxury Golf Car

Marc Cesare, Smallvehicleresource.com

The new Sirius electric vehicle from Star EV

The new Sirius electric vehicle from Star EV at the PGA Show.

At 2017 PGA Merchandise Show electric vehicle manufacturer Star EV revealed their new luxury golf car model, the Sirius. The Sirius has a 4kW AC motor, 350 A Curtis AC controller and has a top speed of 19.5 mph or 25 mph for the LSV version. Other features include:

  • Electronic locking trunk
  • USB port
  • LED illuminated dashboard
  • Self-canceling turn signals
  • Large bagwell
  • Optional golf ball holder inserts
  • Optional 2-in-1 Combo Seat

Star EV showcased the standard Sirius model with the Combo Seat and a customized version showing off the company’s available accessories such as multiple wheel options. While the models at the show were standard 2 and 4-passenger vehicles, the Sirius line will expand to include 6 and 8 passenger models. The Sirius will be available at Star EV dealers later this summer.

It will be interesting to see what the pricing for the vehicle will be compared to other offerings in the market. I don’t believe it will be at the level of a Garia, but where will the Sirius sit in the market, given the features and price, relative to offerings from Club Car, E-Z-GO and Yamaha?. This could be the start of a trend towards offering more “luxury” models if the larger manufacturers follow suit.

For those interested, Sirius is the brightest star in the Earth’s night sky and is derived from the ancient Greek word for “glowing” or “scorcher”, according to Wikipedia.

Learn more:  PRweb.com

E-Z-GO Launches ELiTE Lithium Powered Fleet Golf Cars

Marc Cesare, Smallvehicleresource.com

E-Z-GO RXV

The E-Z-GO RXV fleet golf car is one of models that will be offered with the lithium battery pack.

E-Z-GO has announced their EliTE series of golf cars, a lithium battery powered offering for the fleet market. The ELiTE vehicles will use Samsung’s SDI lithium technology and provide zero maintenance batteries with a five-year unlimited amp-hour warranty and increased energy efficiency. The technology will be offered in the RXV® ELiTE, Freedom® RXV ELiTE, Freedom RXV 2+2 ELiTE, TXT® ELiTE, Freedom TXT ELiTE and Freedom TXT 2+2 ELiTE. According to E-Z-GO some of the advantages of these lithium powered vehicles include:

  • Zero-maintenance batteries that don’t require watering, terminal post checkups and cleaning like traditional lead acid batteries
  • 59% more efficient than the Club Car Precedent and 52% more than the Yamaha Drive AC
  • Reduced charging time allows for short “opportunity charging” between rounds
  • Reduced energy costs
  • Longer run times
  • Lighter weight can reduce turf damage and soil compaction

These advantages are similar to what SVR heard from LiV Golf Cars, a start-up golf car manufacturer that tried to break into the fleet golf car market with lithium powered golf cars not to long ago. While the technology sounded promising, the company had trouble trying to muscle in on the big boys turf. However, the technology has the potential to be quite disruptive as golf car leases are typically tied to the life of the vehicle’s battery pack.

Economically it makes more sense for a golf course to changeover a fleet than just replace the battery packs. A golf course will typically turn over their fleet when the battery pack needs to be replaced, 3-4 years depending on use. Why spend $600-$1,000 per vehicle for a new battery pack when you can lease a whole new set of vehicles for not much more than your current payments? If the lithium battery packs are kept through their warranty period, 5 years, or even longer, you are potentially doubling or almost doubling the changeover time. Obviously, this has implications for fleet golf car sales volume.

How disruptive lithium golf cars will be depends on whether they perform as advertised and how much more they will cost than current fleet golf cars. If the energy cost savings are significant and the pricing not to high the payback time could be relatively short. In the long term the maintenance free aspect of the battery pack may prove to be a significant factor as well, since maintaining lead acid batteries properly continues to be a challenge. This will probably not manifest itself until the vehicles are out in the market and golf course managers better understand how much less maintenance they require.

The full press release from Textron follows:

E-Z-GO® Launches Innovative ELiTE™ Series Vehicles to Industry

Lithium-Powered Golf Fleet Vehicles Developed in Partnership with Samsung SDI

AUGUSTA, Ga. (January 26, 2017) — E-Z-GO, a Textron Specialized Vehicles business, is proud to yet again revolutionize electric golf cars with the introduction of its ELiTE Series lithium golf cars as a fleet offering. Activated by Samsung SDI lithium technology, ELiTE vehicles offer zero-maintenance batteries with a five-year unlimited amp-hour warranty and increased energy efficiency.

E-Z-GO vehicles are designed and manufactured in Augusta, Ga. by Textron Specialized Vehicles Inc., a Textron Inc. (NYSE: TXT) company.

“The E-Z-GO partnership with Samsung SDI resulted in a giant step forward for the industry when it comes to high-efficiency vehicles and zero-maintenance battery power,” said Michael R. Parkhurst, Vice President, Golf for Textron Specialized Vehicles. “ELiTE Series vehicles are the biggest advancement in golf car technology since E-Z-GO introduced the E-Z-GO RXV® golf car, with its groundbreaking AC drive and IntelliBrake™ technology.”

New ELiTE Series vehicles are powered by hundreds of Samsung SDI lithium cells that are loaded into a single battery pack. The battery pack is controlled by an advanced Battery Management System that monitors efficiency, temperature, state of charge and the health of the batteries. These batteries are used to safely and reliably power electric cars, e-scooters, power tools and many other electrically powered vehicles, equipment and appliances.

The revolutionary ELiTE Series vehicles are powered by zero-maintenance lithium batteries that don’t require watering, terminal post checkups and cleaning like traditional lead acid batteries do. This means less time in the shop for maintenance and repairs, and more play time for the vehicles.

ELiTE Series vehicles are 59 percent* more efficient than the Club Car Precedent and 52 percent* more efficient than the Yamaha Drive AC. Charging time is significantly reduced, and ELiTE vehicles allow courses to “opportunity charge,” plugging vehicles in for quick charging sessions between rounds that can rapidly restore significant levels of energy to the battery system, as opposed to the lengthy recharge cycles required by lead-acid batteries.

With less power required to charge ELiTE Series than leading lead-acid competitors, golf course managers can cut energy costs while enjoying the extra revenue that comes from all-day uptime.

The batteries in ELiTE vehicles are also lighter than traditional lead acid batteries. ELiTE Series vehicles batteries are half the size and a fraction of the weight of lead-acid batteries, reducing turf damage and soil compaction due to vehicle weight.

E-Z-GO is confident in the reliable and enduring performance that ELiTE vehicles will bring to courses, which is why the vehicles’ batteries are backed by a five-year, unlimited amp-hour warranty.

E-Z-GO ELiTE Series vehicles were tested at Tijeras Creek Golf Club, in Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., where last year, 73,000 rounds of golf were played. The award-winning course is known for its challenging hilly, brutal terrain. Tijeras Creek Golf Club regularly rotates vehicles in the current lead-acid golf car fleet in and out of service daily to allow for ample recharge time.

“From day one, the ELiTE Series vehicles have been going around our golf course anywhere from 36 to 54 holes a day, and during that time frame, we aren’t having to recharge them,” said Rob Heslar, Director of Golf at Tijeras Creek Golf Club. “There’s a confidence factor in the ELiTE Series lithium car for me. I’m not concerned about putting my customers in an ELiTE Series golf vehicle because I know they won’t worry about becoming stranded in an uncharged vehicle.”

The exclusive ELiTE lithium technology will be available in the following 2017 models:

RXV® ELiTE, Freedom® RXV ELiTE, Freedom RXV 2+2 ELiTE, TXT® ELiTE, Freedom TXT ELiTE and Freedom TXT 2+2 ELiTE.

ELiTE Series vehicles will be on display during the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, Florida. Learn more about ELiTE Series vehicles, by visiting www.ezgo.com/elite.

Contact:
Brandon Haddock
Director, Communications
706. 772.5931
bhaddock@textron.com

– See more at: http://investor.textron.com/news/news-releases/press-release-details/2017/E-Z-GO-Launches-Innovative-ELiTETM-Series-Vehicles-to-Industry/default.aspx#sthash.pK3tx7Dp.dpuf

Should Autocycles Be Next For STOV Manufacturers

Marc Cesare, Smallvehicleresource.com

Arcimoto SRK

The electric powered Arcimoto SRK is expected to be available later this year.

I have come across a number of articles recently focusing on autocycles and I thought this might be a potential product development direction for STOV manufacturers.

First, what is an autocycle? It is basically a three-wheeled vehicle such as the Slingshot by Polaris, or offerings from start ups such as Elio Motors and Arcimoto. There is no standard definition for an autocycle in the US or other countries. In the US, an autocycle is typically classified as a motorcycle, although not always, as Polaris discovered with their Slingshot. They have had to work with some states to develop legislation to allow their vehicles on the road. (See how the classification for the Slingshot varies by state.)

The benefit of being classified as a motorcycle is that the vehicle does not have to conform to more expensive automobile safety standards. This benefit is key to providing STOV manufacturers with a new product opportunity. In particular, I believe Polaris and the golf car manufacturers are well positioned to produce a more practical neighborhood electric vehicle that can provide a good value proposition in relation to street legal golf cars (new or used), low speed vehicles and lower priced highway capable cars.

Now Polaris already has the Slingshot, but this is more of a recreational vehicle designed for those interested in a motorcycle like experience with a greater sense of safety and requiring less driving skill. The Slingshot is highway capable, features a gas engine and pricing starts around $22,000. The not yet in production Elio Motors autocycle is also gas powered, highway capable and has a base price of $7,300. The electric powered Arcimoto SRK is expected to be available this year, has a top speed of 80 mph and starts at $12,000 for the 12kWh model which provides a 70 mile range. Like Slingshot, the Elio and SRK provide seating for two but they are placed front to back rather than side to side as in the Slingshot. All three feature two wheels up front and one in the rear.

While all three of these vehicles are capable of highway speeds, I propose that there is a real market opportunity for a medium speed vehicle (MSV). The medium speed, say up to 40-45 mph, would make the vehicles more practical to use for personal transport than golf cars or LSVs which top out at 19-25 mph. STOV manufacturers have pushed for a MSV designation but NHTSA has not been willing to budge on the costly safety standards for four-wheeled vehicles. This is why the motorcycle/autocycle classification is critical to this opportunity. A MSV autocycle would be a more viable second vehicle for many households and a more versatile neighborhood vehicle for those in gated or retirement communities.

The vehicle should also be electric powered to maximize the environmental benefits and also take advantage of electric motorcycle incentives where available. An electric autocycle would provide a significantly less expensive electric vehicle option to green consumers than the currently available electric cars. A MSV would also require a smaller battery pack than a highway capable electric autocycle, further reducing costs. Of course, a highway capable option could be made available but that would start driving up the costs.

Besides the aforementioned startups, who is positioned to develop these type of vehicles? Polaris is an obvious choice. They already have experience designing, engineering and producing an autocycle and they are innovators. They also have been acquiring electric drivetrain technology (Brammo) and electric vehicle brands such as GEM, Goupil and Taylor-Dunn. It is a vehicle that could potentially fit nicely into their portfolio of the brands that are sold internationally. The biggest challenge for Polaris would be distribution. A MSV autocycle would probably not be a good fit for their powersports dealers, as the customers would be more transportation than recreation oriented. Their brands such as Goupil, Taylor-Dunn and even GEM are geared more towards the commercial customer. Polaris might have to partner with another company to access the right distribution channels.

This brings us to the golf car manufacturers. They have the expertise in developing and selling electric vehicles, but not necessarily the three-wheeled variety and have been more focused on lead acid battery packs. One could argue that they also haven’t been that innovative. They do however have the right distribution network. Their customers are already coming to them for personal transportation solutions.

A MSV autocycle could find a home in Textron’s (maker of E-Z-GO) Specialty Vehicle division which encompasses a wide range of small, task-oriented vehicles. They have also been striking out into new territory with new ATV and UTV products under the Bad Boy Off-road brand. Another option is Yamaha Golf Car, although they are the smallest of the big three manufacturers. This leaves Club Car. As a subsidiary of Ingersoll-Rand they certainly have the financial wherewithal to develop a vehicle on their own, and they may be the best fit for a partnership with Polaris. Unlike Yamaha and Textron they do not compete directly with Polaris in the recreational UTV space. They are also considered by many to be the highest quality brand of the three and have over 600 distributors, dealers and factory branch locations.

It will be interesting to see if the autocycles from Elio and Arcimoto prove to be popular and encourage other manufacturers to join the fray.

Learn more:  Arcimoto.com

Learn more:  Eliomotors.com

 

NHTSA: New Sound Requirement For LSVs

Marc Cesare, Smallvehicleresource.com

The all new 2016 GEM e2.

New NHTSA regulations will require LSVs like the GEM e2 to emit sounds at low speeds to alert pedestrians.

New National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) regulations will add a sound requirement to hybrids and electric light-duty vehicles to make them easier to perceive. The requirement mandates that hybrids and electric cars with a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds or less must emit an audible sound when traveling at speeds of of approximately 19 miles per hour or less and when moving forward or in reverse. The regulation will apply to low speed vehicles. According to NHTSA,

“The new federal safety standard will help pedestrians who are blind, have low vision, and other pedestrians detect the presence, direction and location of these vehicles when they are traveling at low speeds, which will help prevent about 2,400 pedestrian injuries each year once all hybrids in the fleet are properly equipped….Manufacturers have until Sept. 1, 2019, to equip all new hybrid and electric vehicles with sounds that meet the new federal safety standard. Half of new hybrid and electric vehicles must be in compliance one year before the final deadline.”

At first glance the regulation does not cover golf cars, even tough in many areas they are allowed to operate on local streets. From NHTSA’s point of view a golf car is not a street legal vehicle, and therefore not regulated as a motor vehicle. LSVs, on the other hand, are street legal and regulated. A gray area may be modified golf cars which may meet LSV requirements but are not purposely manufactured as LSVs. I spoke with Thomas Healy in NHTSA’s legal office and a key determining factor is the speed of the vehicle. If a vehicle’s top speed is not more than 20 mph then it is not considered a motor vehicle. However, a golf car modified to meet Federal LSV requirements and modified to have a top speed over 20 mph may technically fall under this new regulation.

I also spoke with a dealer that sells LSVs to both colleges and consumers. The colleges like the idea of these vehicles having sound as a safety feature, since they are often navigating a campus environment crowded with pedestrians. A key reason colleges purchase LSVs rather than golf cars are the vehicle’s safety features. On the other hand, according to the dealer, consumers do not like the idea of constantly hearing a noise, especially at night. In fact, one of the reasons they like electric powered LSVs is their quiet operation. The irony is the regulation could incentivize LSV owners to drive faster, maintaining a speed over 19 mph as much as possible to avoid emitting the sound.

I also spoke with a public safety officer at The Villages in Florida. They have thousands of golf cars and LSVs and many miles of multi-modal paths. He stated that the lack of noise from electric powered vehicles did not stand out as a significant safety issue. In part, he suggested that the level of awareness among residence is a mitigating factor. With the large number of golf cars and LSVs operating in the community, as well as the multi-modal paths, residents have a heightened awareness of their surroundings and the dangers while traveling on foot. He also suggested that a safety sound emanating from so many vehicles could prove to be very annoying.

Learn more:  NHTSA.org (Press Release)

Learn more:  NHTSA Quiet Car Rule (PDF)

Road Use Regulation Roundup: November 2016

golf cart signThe following is a summary of some of the road use regulations for golf cars, LSVs, ATVs and UTVs that have been passed or are being considered at the state, county and city levels since August 2016.

Some trends in this latest regulation roundup:

  • Almost all of the regulation activity is occurring at the city level
  • Most of the ordinances are being considered but have not been passed yet.
  • Most of the ordinances concern allowing UTVs on city streets and a few concern golf cars or low-speed vehicles.
  • One city repealed an ordinance allowing utility vehicles on city streets because of safety concerns.

Nashville, TN – Elkhart County Commissioners passed an ordinance which would allow golf carts on all non-numbered county roads. The ordinance as proposed would allow the use of golf carts in all of the unincorporated areas of the county with the exception of numbered county roads, which for the most part would restrict their use to residential subdivisions. Vehicles could be used only from sunrise to sunset. The ordinance also regulates LSVs.

Kearney, MO – The city is considering a citizen’s request to allow the use of ATVs within the city. UTVs are already allowed. There is some concern by officials about the safety of ATVs being operated among larger vehicles such as trucks.

Fort Scott, KS – City officials are drafting an ordinance that will allow UTVs to be used on city streets. The police chief researched similar UTV ordinances in nearby communities and recommended that they be operated by licensed drivers at least 18 years of age and restrictions in place for certain city streets. There was some discussion on the speed of UTVs and whether tires on the vehicles are strictly for off-road use and would have proper traction on city streets. The city already has a golf car ordinance in place.

St. Augustine, FL – The City Commission passed new definitions and standards for low-speed vehicles like golf cars. They also discussed safety issues of using low-speed vehicles, golf cars and ScootCoupes (3-wheeled vehicles that can travel up to 40 mph) on certain roads. They are planning on analyzing the use of these same vehicles on a for-profit basis.

Hapeville, GA – The city is considering regulations to promote the use of low-speed vehicles and/or golf cars.

Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada – The city is considering the use of ATVs and UTVs on municipal roads similar to other nearby municipalities.

Jasper, IN – The Jasper Police Department plans to increase enforcement of golf cars on city streets.

Landis, NC – The North Carolina Department of Transportation denied town requests to change the speed limits on two streets. In August, Landis made the request to lower the speed limit on both roads — along with several others — from 45 mph to 35 mph in order to allow golf carts and other low-speed vehicles to travel within the city limits.

Garner, IA – The City Council is considering an ordinance that will allow the use of ATVs and UTVs on city streets.

Kansas – The Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism commission is considering regulations that will allow golf cars and UTVs to be used on state park roads between sunrise and sunset.

Great Bend, KS – The City Council passed ordinances that would allow ‘micro-utility’ trucks on city streets. These vehicles are defined as any motor vehicle which is not less than 48 inches in width, has an overall length, including the bumper, of not more than 106 inches, has an unloaded weight, including fuel and fluids, of more than 1,500. Golf cars or all-terrain vehicles are not included.

New Hampton, IA – The City Council is likely to pass an ordinance that will allow golf cars and utility vehicles.

Festus, MO – Citing safety issues, the City Council repealed an ordinance passed last year that allowed utility vehicles to be used on city streets.

Nashville, TN – The Metro Transportation Licensing Commission voted to restrict pedal taverns, pedicabs and other pedal carriages as well as low-speed vehicles from operating between 7 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. and between 4 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Congestion and safety concerns were the reasons.

 

STOVs Role In Future Transportation

Yamaha Drive2

Is there a role for golf car type fleets off the course and in the urban centers of the future?

My colleague Stephen Metzger has written an article on the role of small, task-oriented vehicles (STOVs) in future transportation systems given potential trends towards more urbanization, increasing road traffic and evolving transportation technology. These trends intertwine with specific mobility trends such as electrification, shared mobility and driverless vehicles. He posits that golf car type vehicles are well suited to play a role in the urban transportation systems of the future. Learn more:  Smallvehicleresource.com